Even in Canada, Black lives do not matter

Nduta Waweru December 11, 2018
Protests in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: The Globe and Mail

Black people in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, are 20 times more likely to be shot by police officers as compared to white people, a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) revealed.

The report, A Collective Impact: Interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service, noted that black people, who make up 8.8 per cent of the city’s populations, made up 25 per cent of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigations between 2013 and 2017, meaning that they were 3.1 times more likely than a white person to be involved in such an investigation.

Screen grab, OHRC

They also made 28 per cent of cases where police used force; 36 per cent of police shootings; 61.5 per cent of police use of force cases that resulted in civilian death;  and 70 per cent police shootings that resulted in civilian death.

The report further indicated that although there were more reports of Black people resisting arrest, more white people than black people had a criminal record and had allegedly threatened or attacked the police.

Screen grab, OHRC

In terms of gender, the report indicated that black males were 6.1 times more likely to complain in an SIU sexual assault investigation than their presence in the population would predict. They filed more such cases than black women and white men.

Additionally, a lack of legal basis for searches and detentions as well as inappropriate and unjustified searches were found in some cases by the SIU and the Toronto Police Service (TPS).

“I don’t think we can ignore this disparity,” Scot Wortley, a criminologist at the University of Toronto, who conducted the research said.

He had examined 244 cases between 2013 and 2017 and used documents from the police and the SIU to map the race of the individuals involved in the cases.

The report acknowledges that most of the cases involving black people were rooted in racial discrimination and calls for the agency to avoid such.

First, the SIU is looking for criminal wrongdoing, not discrimination. The SIU does not have the authority to investigate alleged violations of the Code or other forms of improper conduct; make findings of discrimination; or lay disciplinary charges for officer misconduct that proceed to a disciplinary hearing.

Also highlighted in the report is the revelation that a number of complaints against police officers did not necessarily result in criminal charges on the officer, thus contributing to discrimination. It said, “Conduct investigated by the SIU that does not result in laying criminal charges against the officer, can still be consistent with discrimination…the fact that the SIU cleared the officers in most investigations does not explain gross over-representation of Black persons in SIU investigations or the many other concerns noted in this report.”

The report comes against the backdrop of complaints and protests by black people including the Black Lives Matter Canada chapter, which protested in 2016 against racial profiling and police brutality as well as calling for an inquiry into the death of a black Toronto resident who was killed by a TPS officer for standing in front of his residence with a hammer in his hand.

According to the human rights group, there had been measures put in place by the TPS to address racial discrimination and racial profiling of Black people between 2010 and 2017, which it will analyse in the final report.

The organisation, in the meantime, has recommended the implementation of policies and report by both the TPS and the City of Toronto to address anti-blackness and for the TPS to acknowledge and report any racial profiling and discrimination cases.

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